Last Thursday, attorneys gathered in the Conference Center at 16 Beacon for the annual Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Pro Bono Training, co-hosted by the BBA and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP). Expert Panelists Jesse Redlener (Dalton & Finegold, LLP), Warren Agin (Swiggart & Agin, LLC), Kate Nicholson (Parker & Associates), and Hsindy Chen (Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association) walked attendees through the basics of representing a Chapter 7 debtors pro bono.
Now that attendees have completed the training, they are ready to assist debtors through VLP’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Program. We reached out to panelist and VLP Staff Attorney Hsindy Chen to learn more about why attorneys should get involved in VLP’s Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project. Here’s what she had to say:
“Through VLP’s bankruptcy pro bono project, volunteer attorneys provide legal representation to indigent debtors on a pro bono basis. Filing bankruptcy provides a “fresh start” for many consumer debtors. This is especially true for legal services clients who lack support and resources in their everyday lives. It is an enormous consolation for our clients during times of crisis to know that they have representation in their bankruptcy. Without the assistance of pro bono attorneys, our clients would be forced to file pro se, risking dismissal of their cases. Filing bankruptcy prevents, among other things, wage garnishments, utility shut offs, and continued harassment from creditors. Our clients are extremely grateful for the representation and our volunteers develop into competent and ethical bankruptcy attorneys through their volunteer work. The pro bono relationship is truly symbiotic – calling your client to inform them of the Order of Discharge is a truly gratifying experience for an attorney!”
BBA President Julia Huston shadowed the headmaster of the Mary Lyon Pilot High School last Tuesday through the Principal for a Day Program.
As you may remember from previous years (see here and here), the BBA President has the privilege of getting an up-close and personal look at the Boston public schools each year through the BPE’s Principal for a Day Program. The Program allows public and private sector leaders to better understand the improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system by shadowing a principal for a morning. The BBA works closely with the BPS schools through the BBA Summer Jobs Program and Law Day in the Schools Program, making this opportunity particularly valuable.
BBA President Julia Huston headed to the Mary Lyon Pilot High School in Brighton last Tuesday, and we wanted to be sure our readers got to hear directly from her. Click here to learn more about Julia’s experience.
Volunteers are the backbone of the new Court Service Center, and the Court is currently seeking experienced attorneys to lend their time to assist pro se litigants
The Court Service Center at the Edward Brooks Courthouse is seeking experienced volunteer attorneys who are dynamic, self-starting and interested in access to justice issues within the court system. Volunteer attorneys will work directly with self-represented litigants to give neutral legal information about court procedures and applicable laws. Just to be clear, attorneys will not be providing representation, but rather providing litigants with information so they may represent themselves.
This is an excellent opportunity for experienced attorneys to provide assistance to pro se litigants and also provide mentorship to law students and newer attorneys.
Responsibilities may include but are not limited to:
Greeting litigants and explaining available services
Referring litigants to other departments or offices
Interviewing litigants about their needs
Assisting litigants with legal paperwork
Doing research regarding area resources
Attorneys with a strong background in probate and family law and housing law are encouraged to volunteer.
Lisa Laurel Weinberg, a Political Asylum Attorney at CLSACC, recently traveled to a detention center in New Mexico to assist with women and children’s immigration cases. Photo courtesy of Lisa Marie Oliveira.
Each year the Boston Bar Foundation grants funding to a number of legal service organizations that provide access to justice for those in our community who need it most. With the Adams Benefit fast approaching, Beyond the Billable decided to check in with one of the grantees, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC). It turns out that one of their attorneys has recently traveled to a detention center in New Mexico to assist with women and children’s immigration cases. We reached out to Lisa Laurel Weinberg, a Political Asylum Attorney at CLSACC, to hear more about one of her recent cases. Here’s what she had to say:
What types of cases have you been working on at the Artesia Detention Center? The Artesia Detention Center is a family detention center. The detainees who are being held there are all mothers with their children. The women are primarily from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. All of the women I spoke to were fleeing from violence. They were primarily fleeing intimate partner violence, gang violence, and in many cases – both. I successfully represented a mother and her 17 year old and 6 month old daughters who were fleeing from severe domestic violence in their political asylum case. They had an individual merits hearing, which is their trial, before a federal immigration judge.
How did you first get involved with these types of cases? I am a political asylum lawyer at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC). I am also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). AILA put out a call to its members to request that lawyers go to Artesia on an emergency basis to help the women and children in Artesia. AILA also offered scholarships to encourage lawyers to go. As a legal services attorney, I was awarded one of the scholarships
The Artesia family detention center is in a remote desert town in New Mexico hundreds of miles from the nearest city. Detainees are not permitted to leave, so in effect they were being prevented from obtaining legal counsel. In order for the women to obtain lawyers, lawyers have to go to them. All of the immigration proceedings are held in the detention facility remotely by video teleconferencing before judges from the Executive Office of Immigration Review in Arlington Virginia (this has since been changed to Denver). Before the lawyers started arriving, the women and children were going through immigration proceedings at the Artesia facility without the benefit of legal counsel and many were being deported. Now that they have lawyers that equation has shifted and many are being released either on bond, parole, or with legal immigration status.
Please share a story from your time at the Artesia immigration detention center. When I arrived in Artesia on Monday September first, one of the cases that I was handed was the case of a woman and her two children who had fled severe domestic violence at the hands of her spouse whose Individual Merits Hearing in their asylum case was going to be held in one week on September 8th. This is the hearing before a federal immigration judge on the merits of her political asylum claim where it is decided whether she has a well-founded fear of persecution on a protected ground and can remain legally in the United States as a refugee. If she was not successful in her claim, she and her children would be ordered removed (deported) from the United States. It was a week away from her hearing and she did not have an attorney to represent her. I met the client (with my colleague from CLSACC paralegal/BIA Accredited representative Karen Bobadilla) the next day and we realized the case submissions had to be put together in two days in order to arrive in Arlington Virginia by the Friday deadline and the client had to be prepared to testify by the following Monday. To put it in context, outside the facility, political asylum cases before an immigration judge can take months or even years to prepare. The isolation of the facility, the forced isolation of the women and children, and the expedited process meant that I could not obtain evidence that is standard in political asylum cases such as evaluations by a doctor and a mental health professional or any affidavits from people who witnessed the abuse. After a 4 hour video hearing in the facility the case was continued because the judge wanted to hear from an expert. We came back to Boston and secured the expert on Domestic Violence in Honduras and two weeks later Ms. Bobadilla and I flew down to Arlington Virginia to finish the case. The expert testified for almost two hours and then after closing arguments the judge granted the case.
If you want to hear more about this case, click here or here.
Here is what PIC had to say about Matt and Olivier:
“Matt specializes in debt finance and private equity transactions. Olivier emigrated from Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. In March of this year, Olivier was asked to speak alongside Mayor Walsh at an employer appreciation reception. After hearing Olivier, the president of the Boston Bar Association (BBA) asked him if he would like to work in a law firm. Olivier jumped at the opportunity and secured a summer internship at the international law firm of Edwards Wildman. There he met Matt, who also co-chairs the BBA summer jobs program. Under Matt’s watchful eye, Olivier working in various departments within the firm, assisted in a mock trial and interacted with attorneys in special seminars, on court house tours, and during weekly lunches. This fall, Olivier started at Bridgewater State University. He currently plans on pursuing a career in international law. Matt and Olivier represent what can happen when two worlds meet within the context of a professional workplace.”
Click here to read Edwards Wildman’s news article on the award.
Unfortunately Matt was traveling for business and was unable to attend the event, but look below for more images of Olivier at the Annual Meeting:
BBA Summer Jobs Intern Olivier Tingue (center) shows off his PIC Achiever Award with PIC Executive Director Neil Sullivan (left) and PIC Assistant Director Jonathan Rosenthal. Photo courtesy of the Boston PIC.
BBA Summer Jobs Intern Olivier Tingue poses with his mom at the PIC Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of the Boston PIC.
Pauline Quirion (GBLS) met with federal probationers taking part in the CARE/RESTART Program to discuss sealing their CORIs through the BBA Community Reentry Readiness Program.
The BBA officially kicked off the start of the Community Reentry Readiness Program last Wednesday with a session on sealing CORIs at the Federal District Court. You may remember the success of PILP 9’s Community Reentry Readiness Pilot Program. If not, here’s the deal. Through the Community Reentry Readiness Program, volunteer attorneys deliver civil legal education workshops to federal probations in the CARE/RESTART Program on issues that they may face upon reentry to reduce the risk of recidivism. The pilot program was such a success that the BBA and Federal Court once again teamed up to continue the program.
Last Wednesday, Pauline Quirion (Greater Boston Legal Services) met with the group of probationers to discuss CORI sealing. Each month, volunteers will meet with the probationers to discuss topics, including housing, employment, family law, and others. Stay tuned for more.
This Veterans Day, we remember the past and ongoing sacrifices of the men, women and their families who have served our nation.
That’s why we wanted to share this Boston Globe article that sheds light on just how difficult navigating the VA system can be not only for clients, but for lawyers as well.
The article tells the story of a 59-year old Vietnam Veteran, and his difficulty communicating with the VA about his benefits. Despite serving his country bravely and honorably during a time of war, the veteran has encountered hurdles that would leave many too frustrated to overcome. Along the way, he has been helped by a pro bono attorney Steve Veenema, who now works at Murphy & King. Despite being proactive and communicating to the VA that he was receiving Social Security benefits for an automobile accident, the veteran was penalized for a VA error that was not his fault. Even his lawyer had difficulty being acknowledged by the VA in several instances, and found that the way that his client was treated by the VA system caused needless frustration and suffering. For the full story, we encourage you to read the whole article.
So what can you do to help? We receive calls daily though the BBA Military & Veterans Legal Help Line though the Lawyer Referral Service. If you or your firm is interested in receiving referrals from this line, please contact Solana Goss at (617) 778-1978 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may have seen last week that 4 BBA sponsor firms have volunteered to accept pro bono referrals through the Help Line – hear from them why they stepped up to help military members, veterans and their families.
To read about the BBA’s impact with the military & veterans community over this past year, click here.
The wait is over! Beyond the Billable is excited to announce the release of the 2014 BBA Public Service Report. Take a few minutes to read the stories and see our impact in the community. Click here for the report.
More than 300 new lawyers have participated in the Diversity & Inclusion Section’s Group Mentoring Program.
The BBA’s Group Mentoring Program officially kicked off year six last week, as 65 eager young attorneys in pursuit of expanding their professional support network stopped by 16 Beacon Street. The mentees got to connect with one another and to get a taste of the meetings and career development programs on tap for the current year thanks to an orientation and kickoff reception.
This year, eight seasoned attorneys from various practice areas have volunteered to serve as mentors. The Program has two main goals: to encourage leadership and success of diverse lawyers while exposing them to the Boston legal community by building personal relationships.
Each year, Mayor Menino attended the BBA Summer Jobs Kickoff Event to wish the students good luck on their first day of work.
We were deeply saddened to hear of Mayor Menino’s passing last week. As many of our readers know, Mayor Menino has played a central role in our Summer Jobs Program since its inception more the 20 years ago. Under his citywide Summer Jobs Initiative, the BBA created the Summer Jobs Program in 1993 in collaboration with the City of Boston and the Boston Private Industry Council. Each summer, Mayor Menino took the time out of his busy schedule to stop by 16 Beacon on the students’ first day of work to wish them good luck and to share words of wisdom as they headed off to their new legal internships. Thanks to Mayor Menino’s support and commitment to providing Boston teens with paid summer employment, our program tripled in size, growing from 22 student positions in 1993 to 64 positions in 2014.
We also wanted to share a great summer jobs article from today’s Boston Globe, which sums up Mayor Menino’s passion for preserving Boston’s future perfectly:
“Menino did what few other mayors did, budgeting millions for summer jobs. He lobbied for state and federal funding, leaned on the private sector to take part, and fought to keep the jobs program going through good and bad times.”
According to another Boston Globe article published in 2013 , Mayor Menino allocated $150 million in government funding to teen employment and secured over 200,000 summer jobs for Boston teens during his time in office. As we all know, his influence stretched far beyond the BBA’s Program. His Summer Jobs Initiative served as national model for other city’s teen employment initiatives, and his legacy lives on in cities throughout the country who follow his example and make investing in their youth throughemployment opportunities a priority. Click here to read the BBA’s full news release on Mayor Menino.
Look below for some highlights from Mayor Menino’s visits with the BBA Summer Jobs students throughout the years: